Thamizh Talkies: Heroes are ageless
The writer is a former journalist who has worked in the film industry for several years and is passionate about movies, music and everything related to entertainment
Waking up to the Oscars (albeit only on the television) has been a ritual. I remember times when the tension superseded my board exam results. The final four awards literally used to be nail-biting, because you had just a friend or two who followed Western cinema like you did and the speculation began and ended between the two of you. Today, you have micro and macro-blogging sites where you draw up your list of probable winners, and exchange it with a million others online.
Earlier, the films would come to India only after winning the awards but now, they are here for us to see and assess if they are worthy of that statue. When they win finally, you have your “I knew it” or “I told you so” moment. Most of this year's Oscar nominee films are showing in Chennai now. Over the years, the winners list has seemed like a foregone conclusion but I watch nevertheless to see some of the biggest stars speak, and these days with most of them taking a political stand, their speeches make for interesting viewing.
I also think the line between the categories of Best Actors & Best Supporting Actors are a bit blurred now. It is not just in Hollywood but the world over and more importantly, let’s take a few examples of what’s happening in the Tamil film industry. I see it as the beginning of a healthy trend, where star-actors of over two decades still get to play central roles and bring a difference to both the story and the scale/business of the film. Recent examples are Sivakarthikeyan’s Hero which had Arjun in a key role and Vaanam Kottattum which has Sarathkumar and Radhika Sarathkumar lead the otherwise young cast. In both films, the seniors steal the show. It also helps that both Arjun and Sarathkumar still have the gravitas to pull off action bits with their heroism in tact, thanks to how they have maintained their physicality, combined with a certain dexterity they lend to their acting. The low angles and high-speed shots look so good on these heroes that scenes get elevated when the camera gazes on their expression or action.
Vaanam Kottatum has two specific moments which had me well up in tears. When Bose (played with much depth and aplomb by Sarathkumar in a career-defining comeback performance) meets his wife Chandra (Radhika) and says, “It’s been so many years (in jail) and even though you are my wife, I don’t know whether I should stand a few feet away and talk or whether I can come forward and touch you and talk." Chandra (in perhaps the most original and best moments I’ve ever seen on screen between a man and his wife) looks at him, takes the lead, and goes forward and hugs him.
Radhika conveys a thousand unsaid words with just her expression and body language, that the whole theatre erupts in applause. Her Chandra is a stellar woman who is the spine of the story. A similar such moment is in the climax, when the camera is on Bose who’s just thrashed the younger-than-him villain and it’s now time to tell that boy about the consequence of resorting to violence. A lesser actor would have turned that scene into a mere sermon, but because it’s Sarathkumar, the low angle shot makes an instant hero of him. Bose is hurt both physically and mentally and wants to speak his heart to the young man who is out for revenge. Watch Sarathkumar’s face keenly when he refers to how life in jail is hell. Notice how when he says hell, his eyes widen with horror in realisation of what his life could have been in those fourteen years he was away. Remorse, repentance, warning, anxiety and a certain courage flash across Sarathkumar’s face.
Vaanam Kottatum made me want to see more of our much loved star-actors. Other performances l liked in recent films are of Sathyaraj in Thambi (do watch him to know how an actor can deliver an expression when good and bad are matters of mere perspectives) and Jayaram in the Telugu super hit, Ala Vaikunthapurramloo. You’ll also wonder why many films feature such good actors only in character roles, when they should be playing leads as well, as they can carry a whole film on their able shoulders. Any producers willing to consider this? For, I’m sure there are a million stories one can weave around men and women who have seen more of life.